Managing a classroom can be tough. Students get off task easily, become distracted by the smallest things, and can entirely miss directions due to their preoccupation with their peers and cell phones. In order to manage the chaos, teachers must come up with a game plan and develop unwavering rules.
One of the key lesson openers that my mentor teacher utilizes is a hook prompt to begin the class. On the first day of the school year my mentor teacher projected a writing prompt up on the board as students entered the classroom. The projection had instructions on the board, a time limit of 10 minutes, as well as an easy to understand prompt that required students to write about a personal experience. As students entered, my mentor teacher stood at the front of the classroom quietly. Instead of giving verbal instructions, he allowed students to sit down, become aware of their instructions, and hopefully begin following the directions on their own. Some students began writing, others continued talking with their peers and wasting time. After several minutes of realizing they hadn’t been given instructions, and the teacher was quietly standing at the front of the room, the distracted students began to feel uncomfortable with the situation and they too got to work. After about 4 minutes, everyone in the room quieted down and began writing. When the room was finally quiet my mentor teacher began to speak. He said “Great. Instead of following instructions, a lot of you wasted 4 minutes of class time. For every wasted minute, I’ll take away one additional minute. You wasted 4, so I’ll take away an additional 4. You are now down to 2 minutes to draft a response to the prompt.” With that, some students whined that it was unfair, but most began to quickly write. The next day, the exact same procedure took place. During the first week of class, every day there was slightly less time wasted. By the second week, students would enter the classroom, sit down quietly, and begin drafting responses to the prompt on the board. this is a strategy that I would love to implement in my own classroom.
This lesson opener works to communicate rules, consequences to actions, and the importance of utilizing class time to get to work and not goof off. At the beginning of the year the prompts were personal prompts, but as the year has progressed,the prompts have been directly connected to the literature we have read.
It is important that the lesson opener works to engage students, while also setting the tone for how the classroom is going to be run, and what students think they can get away with. This is also an example of one of the transitions that is utilized within the classroom. As student transition into the classroom, they know what is expected of them right off the bat.
The closing of the class period, which is considered a transition from work time to the end of the period when students are packing up, is also a time that needs to be structured. My mentor teacher makes it very clear that students should not begin packing up their belongings until he has explicitly said to do so. When students begin to transition out of the classroom, they already have completely lost focus, and their brains have wandered on to the next class or their next task. My mentor teacher always rounds out the instruction, reminds students of the upcoming due dates and expectations, and then gives students the last minute of class to begin packing up. By forcing students to wait to pack up, it communicates that class time is still class time until the minute that it is finished. When students aren’t busy packing up, they are far more likely to pay attention to the directions and due date reminders, instead of packing up to leave. It is important for lesson closures and transitions to minimize distractions.
One of the main management strategies that my mentor teacher utilizes is movement throughout the room. Instead of standing in one location for the whole period, he wanders around the classroom, has conversations with individual students, and creates close proximity with the students that are acting out. Movement throughout the classroom helps students to remain engaged, but also keeps students from becoming as easily distracted. When students know that the teacher will be coming around the check for progress, they are far more likely to stay on task.
When the class transitions to the computer lab, my mentor teacher goes over hallway expectations prior to leaving the room. Although this may seem childish, it is still important, even for high schoolers. Students need to know that rules during class time extend even outside the main room. By going over rules before leaving the room, students know what is expected of them.